Group Reading: Freedom Flight 2022

Crimsonstar

Spaceman
Major Kristi Marks of Fourth Division, Confederation Marines speaks pretty good Kilrathi language. Does this soldier belong to intel community?

Humans could speak in higher octave. It works even in early 2630s or eariler.
Just pointing out that anyone who seeks to enter Intel community would have to know Kilrathi. A soldier knowing the language of the belligerent nation they are fighting against can be advantageous. I'm sure there were plenty of service members who learned Kilrathi on their own. One of the humorous pilots from Saga taunted cloaked Strakha in Kilrathi in Saga.
 

EmuMusicFan

1st Lieutenant
Just pointing out that anyone who seeks to enter Intel community would have to know Kilrathi. A soldier knowing the language of the belligerent nation they are fighting against can be advantageous. I'm sure there were plenty of service members who learned Kilrathi on their own. One of the humorous pilots from Saga taunted cloaked Strakha in Kilrathi in Saga.
Got it, thanks!

Saga? You mean Kilrathi Saga or...?
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
* Routinely, what is the first thing a warship needs to do after entering a system that is not fully controlled?

A capital ship that carries fighters would immediately launch fighters to reconnoiter the immediate area and then to start flying a rotation of Combat Air Patrol (CAP) missions. That's why we get the inflection on "not" when Ralgha orders the crew not to launch fighters, it's something they find very unusual.

* What does chewing arakh leaves do for Kilrathi people?

Victory Streak says that arakh leaves are a "popular intoxicant" to the Kilrathi and that they're often used to brew tea and the movie novelization describes it as "Kilrathi catnip". I get the sense that it's a drug the Kilrathi take to help relax, so maybe roughly equivalent to marijuana.

* By this time, how many Kilrathi on the Ras Nik'hra cruiser could speak Terran language?

Just Kirha and the Pilot Officer, possibly. It seems like it would be a very specialized skill for a capital ship crewman.

* Why we say Maniac is a *******?

He is (obnoxiously) misreading the situation, thinking Hunter is hitting on Angel.

* Did the human convert the coordinates of Ras Nik'hra in time?

I think so, Halcyon says "we don’t have his exact position, only his in-system jump point" which is the coordinates Ralgha provides in his message.

* What does the name Tiger's Claw mean for Kilrathi fleet?

By this time, it is probably the most feared human carrier. When Freedom Flight was written we had already established that the Tiger's Claw had heroically stopped a Kilrathi invasion in 2944, saved the day at Custer's Carnival in 2949 and then led the victory in the Vega Sector the prior year. (And in stories that have appeared since Freedom Flight was written we have the movie and Academy where she wins two other oversized victories!)

* How does Ralgha feel about the crew of the ship?

I remember this tripping me up a little at the time because he starts by recognizing his crew's honor and then is very quickly willing to kill them all. To me it said there is a very different relationship between a Kilrathi captain and crew than we experience on human ships.

* What does "with weapons" mean to Kilrathi? What does weapons mean here?

This is referencing the two laser pistols he got out: "Inside the cabin, the lord removed two small laser pistols and two handheld communication units from a cabinet, handing one of each to Kirha and placing the others in his hauberk. "

* "Soldiers of the Empire, you are sworn to me as my vassal warriors in the Emperor’s service." What does this statement reveal about the relationship between Ralgha and the crew of the ship? What is it based on? Is this different from the relationship between Ralgha and Kirha? How is it different?

I believe the crew of the ship itself are all "oathsworn" to Ralgha in the same way we see the new Pilot Officer transfer his loyalty back in Chapter One. Kirha is also oathsworn but there's more of a connection because his hrai has served Ralgha's going far back in the past and because they've been together since Kirha was a cub. It's more of a military formality for anyone else aboard the ship. I could see the 'in the Emperor's service' being a difference, too: Kirha has been attached to Ralgha for life while the crew swears and oath to serve him beneath the Emperor.

* What is the gesture of submission for a Kilrathi?

Here it's baring their throat so that a superior could slash it, but there could be many different similar gestures. I know housecats will show you their butts to let you know they trust you!

* In Action Stations, there was a conversation between Baron Vakka and Admiral Nargth:

"The change in battle doctrine to the use of carriers as the first strike force has been discussed for years," Vakka continued after a short pause. "Ever since the war with the Varni we've considered it. Development of a shield-penetrating torpedo now makes it logical."

"It will still be the heavy ships, though, that will carry the day," Nargth replied defensively. "I've given my life to the fleet. Only ships with staying power will finally decide it. As to the overall plan, there is a flaw to it."

Which two naval operational concepts does this reflect? From the descriptions in Freedom Flight, which do you think became mainstream more than 20 years later?

Absolutely Baron Vakka's take is what happened, although I am sure there are holdouts in the Kilrathi fleet! But just look at the Ras Nik'hra, a powerful cruiser that now relies on its fighter complement. (This part in Action Stations is written to parallel a big debate in the United States military in the 1930s, with older 'battleship admirals' who refused to believe that air power would be important in future warfare. We look back at them foolishly now as Japan figured out exactly how the next war would be fought while the US spent lots of money on expensive battleships...)

* If this defection of Ralgha is considered to be an agent implantation orchestrated by Thrakhath, what do you see as the problem with it? If not, what do you think was really going on?

I see it two ways. In the present canon where Wing Commander III establishes he was a sleeper agent I think it's a nice "gotcha", an accidental aspect that supports the later story. Thrakhath refusing to kill Ralgha in Special Operations 1 is another one along those lines... no one was thinking Ralgha was a traitor when it was written, but it helps the story a little bit.

But back in 1992, I think the idea was to introduce the broader Kilrathi court politics that are also hinted at in Special Operations where we find out that Ralgha is the rare relative who hasn't tried to murder Thrakhath. But we never get much more detail about what was being imagined. All of that said, I have always found it a little odd at the time that Freedom Flight doesn't mention Thrakhath being related to Ralgha OR ANYTHING about Downtown... given that those stories were all written by the same person! (Similarly, Ralgha seems to have no particular interest in slavery in Freedom Flight while he claims it is why he defected in WC2...)

* You may notice that the fight between the crew and Ralgha was just a battle of claws, teeth and fists (paws). What is your explanation for this phenomenon?

That was what Ralgha meant that he and Kirha would have the only weapons. They each take a laser from his cabin (but neither gets to use them).


Major Kristi Marks of Fourth Division, Confederation Marines speaks pretty good Kilrathi language. Does this soldier belong to intel community?

I think her speech is implied to be 'on the job' Kilrathi... she's spent enough time as a marine that she knows how to order around POWs. I must think some more about the history of translation in WC before I reply to the rest!

(Another Freedom Flight Chapter Four - Major Marks also shows up in Secret Missions 2 and she is a tuckerization of Christy Marx who is a writer who worked in animation with Ellen Guon in the 80s. If you watch old American cartoons you will see her name eventually!
 

EmuMusicFan

1st Lieutenant
Just Kirha and the Pilot Officer, possibly. It seems like it would be a very specialized skill for a capital ship crewman.
As seen in the back story, Kirha's Terran language was actually rather raw during this period and lacked cultural understanding.

I remember this tripping me up a little at the time because he starts by recognizing his crew's honor and then is very quickly willing to kill them all. To me it said there is a very different relationship between a Kilrathi captain and crew than we experience on human ships.
I think this can be understood as the "mission first" principle. If there was a deviation here, the whole program of surrender Ras Nik'hra to humans might fail. And we know in fact, something went wrong here, and Ralgha's survival was no small amount of luck. I also noticed that Kirha did something similar in chapter 12. At the end of chapter 4, the mission was successful, and it was time for Ralgha to once again work very hard to protect his crew. The crew also accepted his protection.

This is referencing the two laser pistols he got out: "Inside the cabin, the lord removed two small laser pistols and two handheld communication units from a cabinet, handing one of each to Kirha and placing the others in his hauberk. "
This seems to indicate that the ship's crew did not carry any weapons, not even cold weapons, at that time under ordinary sailing conditions. From the description in Chapter 11, the squad leader had a belt knife.
A very key point, Ralgha also did not wear a knife in the sailing state. What is your opinion on this?

I see it two ways. In the present canon where Wing Commander III establishes he was a sleeper agent I think it's a nice "gotcha", an accidental aspect that supports the later story. Thrakhath refusing to kill Ralgha in Special Operations 1 is another one along those lines... no one was thinking Ralgha was a traitor when it was written, but it helps the story a little bit.

But back in 1992, I think the idea was to introduce the broader Kilrathi court politics that are also hinted at in Special Operations where we find out that Ralgha is the rare relative who hasn't tried to murder Thrakhath. But we never get much more detail about what was being imagined. All of that said, I have always found it a little odd at the time that Freedom Flight doesn't mention Thrakhath being related to Ralgha OR ANYTHING about Downtown... given that those stories were all written by the same person! (Similarly, Ralgha seems to have no particular interest in slavery in Freedom Flight while he claims it is why he defected in WC2...)

About the first aspect, my sense at the moment is that there are a number of continuity problems here. If this is an orchestrated agent implant, there were many stages that could go seriously wrong, and Ralgha might have died in the process at the claws of the crew. I tend to think that the Ras Nik'hra surrender was not orchestrated from the Imperial side and may have actually been an accident to the Empire. But I know, I need to go back to read the script of WC3 before making a formal point of view.

For the second way, maybe Ralgha and Thrakhath's relationship was expected to continue to unfold in the unformed next novel? The points I see from WC2 and FF are the following:

1. Thrakhath did not want to kill Ralgha both the two times.
2. Ralgha was displeased with the corruptness of the emperor. He probably thought to some extent that he lost those family members because the emperor.
3. Ralgha was outraged by Thrakhath's arrest of the priestess on Ghorah Khar.

Note the following description in chapter 8, Ralgha was not just unsatisfied with Thrakhath, at this stage.

But best of all, the Prince would doubtless survive, and would have a great deal to account for to the Emperor. The Emperor’s displeasure was going to fall heavily on him—and on any who were his favorites. The repercussions of this disaster would echo down along the chain of command, affecting anyone who was partisan to the Prince’s cause. They all, from the Prince downward, might well find themselves piloting fighters on the frontlines.

The ancient texts said, “Revenge is best when cultured, gathered at the proper time, and lingered over.”
He would linger over this scrap of vengeance for a very long time. Perhaps it would wash away the bitterness of knowledge.
The sure and certain knowledge of his own hand in this disaster for his people.


About slavery and Downtown, My guess is that Downtown was most likely in Ghorah Khar at this time. And Rlagha may have been upset with the casual oppression and harming of slaves, not with slavery as a whole. The relationship between Lady Hassa and the human slave Esther might be considered as acceptable to Ralgha.

Maybe Downtown reminded Ralgha of his youngest brother.

Also, in WC2, Ralgha had a role as a representative of Ghorah Khar. At that time he would like to show a good image, perhaps.
 
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Crimsonstar

Spaceman
I have always been curious as to how cells were designed to hold Kilrathi and what the Standard Operating Procedure would be as some characters entered cells by themselves. I would imagine the guards would have their weapons pointed as a Kilrathi can easily tear a human to shreds. One would think a high-valued prisoner like Thrakhath would be restrained in irons as I doubt he would be as cooperative as it was shown in SO1.
 

EmuMusicFan

1st Lieutenant
I have always been curious as to how cells were designed to hold Kilrathi and what the Standard Operating Procedure would be as some characters entered cells by themselves. I would imagine the guards would have their weapons pointed as a Kilrathi can easily tear a human to shreds. One would think a high-valued prisoner like Thrakhath would be restrained in irons as I doubt he would be as cooperative as it was shown in SO1.
In WC2 Thrakhath was not so... mad... I think.
Note that Thrakhath wouldn't have had a chance if he hadn't cooperated at the time.
 
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EmuMusicFan

1st Lieutenant
ASSIGNMENT FOR Freedom Flight, Chapter 5

DISCUSSION POINTS:

* What was the danger of Hunter's strategy when sinking Fralthi Kraj'nishk? How was this reflected in the history of human air combat?
* Airlock and magnetic shield, how are these technology implementations used in the Confederation and the Empire?
* What type of uniform did Kilrathi officers usually have?
* Why did Ralgha ordered Kirha to ask Hunter the reason for kissing Spirit's face?
* How did Ralgha feel about the incident Hunter destroyed the Fralthi Kraj’nishk?
* Why did Ralgha give his retainer to Hunter?
* It take the inquisitors a long time to realize that the problem of honor codex. Was it caused by the limited understanding of Kilrathi culture that humans had?
* The third inquisitor used expletives when mentioning Hunter. Is it suitable?
* What new insights did Ralgha gain after being treated with courtesy?
* How do you feel about Ralgha's Homesickness?
* What do you think the history of the Sivar-Eshrad ceremony might be? Is there any record of it before Kilrathi started interstellar expansion?
* What do you say about this sentence? "There had just been too much death on both sides, it made no sense to reckon up who owed blood-guilt to whom."





EXTENDED DISCUSSION

* How many examples of lord retainer relationships can you remember in the series?
* Sivar-Eshrad was mentioned as "the most important religious ceremony of the year." How do you think Kilrathi's religious ativities was before Kilrathi's interstella expansion? Combined with other works of the series?
* From the series, how many ways have you found for a Kilrathi to recognize, respect, and accept other species? Examples?
 
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Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
It's an interesting chapter! The first half is adapted directly from Secret Missions 2, down to some of the specifics of the mission (Spirit's presence, the attacking Fralthi). Then the interrogation scene is a direct parallel to Chapter One where we see Ralgha in the same circumsatnces on Ghorah Khar.

My annotations from this readthrough:

  • According to the Kilrathi Saga calendar, this chapter takes place on September 28, 2655 (2655.271). It's adapted from a specific mission in Secret Missions 2, Firekka 3 Mission 1 (Delta Escort). The game mission features Blair/LaFong and Spirit intercepting the Ras Nik'hra and engaging the attacking Fralthi. The story is totally retold in Super Wing Commander which instead has Ralgha arrive alone in a captured Dralthi. (I have a theory about this if anyone is interested…). There is a page telling the story of the mission from LaFong's perspective in the Wing Commander I & II guide.

  • “It’s a long, long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go!” - It's a Long Way to Tipperary is an British song which became extremely popular as a soldiers' marching tune during the Great War. Unlike most other marching songs, it's not about war at all but instead is an upbeat song about home. Which is exactly the tone of Freedom Flight when compared to the later Wing Commander novels: it's still about space war but it's a much more positive story. The line he can't remember is "it's a long way to Tipperary, to the sweetest girl I know!". Which is also what's about to happen in the chapter, he flies to meet Spirit. (Who, almost certainly not coincidentally, he calls 'sweetheart' several times during the course of the book.)

  • "Lord, but I hate solo patrols, Hunter thought, unstrapping himself so he could prop his feet up on the port viewscreen. " I wonder if this is a reference to the mechanic from Wing Commander I where you had to fly alone if your wingman was killed in the. (Youngblood wasn't technically his wingman on the previous mission but the spirit is there. And the Spirit! Hah hah hah.) Let's also note that Hunter's "Lord" is a rare reference to a human character and religion. AND can you believe you can put your feet up in a Rapier II?

  • “Keep the channels clear, Hunter,” the Colonel’s voice said sternly, his image flickering on the vidscreen. - the idea that the Colonel is regularly giving orders to patrols while they're in flight isn't something that happens in Wing Commander I but it WAS something specifically added to Wing Commander II, which was the most recent game released when Freedom Flight was written. Starting with WC2, the game can play scripted Origin FX sequences during missions.

  • The TCS Holmen, one of our Marine troopships, has just reported in. - I can't nail down a reference for the name of the Holmen; there's no specifically military connection that I can think of. Interestingly, Major Kristi Marks' is aboard the TCS General Powell in Secret Missions 2 (a then-topical reference to the ongoing Gulf War).

  • Spirit spoke quietly. “Major, if we can get some dumb-fire missiles into that launch bay, they won’t be able to get any more fighters off the deck.” - a mechanic that we don't actually get to do until Wing Commander III! But that's part of the charm of these books that expand the world, you get to see the characters do all sorts of things that /should/ work but for the limitation of Wing Commander being a PC game from 1990.

  • Jalthi - you don't actually fight any Jalthi in the mission, the second Fralthi is protected by a squadron of Krant.

  • He could see the main thruster engine of the ship, glowing bright in the center of the five other engine nacelles. - this is an odd description. While the Fralthi does clearly have nacelles in WC1, it has at most four (and in my view two)... and while it does have six engines, none of them are a single central engine.

  • He fired a test burst from his guns, resetting them from neutron guns to laser cannons so he’d have the best long-distance weapon readied, then reached over to switch to Mariko’s vidchannel. - absolutely how anyone who has ever just taken off in Wing Commander does it.

  • Mariko’s fighter, with the long burn mark along one side, was parked fifty feet away. - feet?!

  • Of the Imperial Fralthi, the only part of the ship that was still intact was the forward oval that he knew contained the ship’s Bridge. - this, however, matches the Claw Marks art!

  • For years and years I thought it was a continuity error that Spirit is flying a Rapier instead of the Raptor from the actual mission. EXCEPT I now see that isn't specified ever... only Hunter is explicitly flying a Rapier.

  • He continued into the airlock. Hunter stared at the complex control panel, with all of its markings in the vertical line-syllables of the Kilrathi alphabet. - this matches how the Kilrathi alphabet appears in Secret Missions 2 and how it's described in Victory Streak. (Compare to the more familiar claw-like markings we see everywhere else).

  • “Because I’ll take any excuse to kiss this lady!” Hunter grinned. - Time to #metoo Hunter.

  • It ought to look different somehow; it ought to have turned unrecognizable and alien. Yet nothing had changed, except the figures at the consoles. Too thin, too hairless, no tails at all. - this is really pretty prose

  • their ears pierced with multiple gold rings - Ralgha still wears these in Wing Commander II.

  • Kirha flattened his ears, and got slowly to his feet, making no secret of his reluctance. - anyone with a cat recognizes this!

  • Our thanks, warrior, that was excellent, and fine tale-telling as well - they do a great job with the tone throughout the interrogation.

  • How Clan Ishta Got Its Stripes - someone should write and illustrate this

  • they pained him. He had assumed drugs; he had feared torture. The humans administered neither - it's interesting to me HOW FAR this is from the original Squadron pitch about a morally grey human empire… by Freedom Flight this is Star Trek's Federation (TNG era).

  • The second one made one of those skin-wrinkling expressions, and growled, “All right then, get that (unknown) (unknown) rocket-jockey in here so he can give the (unknown) cat his (unknown) orders!” - such gentle humor; I remember cringing at this kind of thing as a teenager but now I wish there were ten Freedom Flights worth of it.

  • I don’t care if he’s (unknown) the Admiral! - is this… the only gay line in Wing Commander, Privateer 2 booth lore excepted?

  • Ralgha hoped that Kirha would be all right. Was the youngster flexible enough to accept the addition to his loyalties? His first loyalty would always be to Ralgha of course; until Ralgha took back that oath, the boy would be his before he was Hunter’s. But this seemed the best and surest way to keep Kirha safe. Provided it didn’t tip him over the edge with too much change, too much stress, too soon. - you could argue that we're already seeing Ralgha scheming beyond the bounds of what he's admitting to the humans. Especially worth noting that while Kirha believes fully that it's a debt of honor, Ralgha doesn't actually do it to honor Hunter at all.

  • Ralgha's desire to be a capital H Herdmaster is a neat thing to develop in your mind. Also "no concerns of Empire" is a wonderful and evocative expression. For lack of a better term, the book has an especially good "Ralgha melancholy" that it keeps invoking.

  • Ralgha was somewhat surprised when they both addressed him in his own language, until he saw the tiny translator-units attached to their belts. Expensive technology, that—which denoted both their importance and his. - interesting if not quite satisfying explanation for why Kilrathi language can SOMETIMES be translated instantly.

  • “This is Captain Thorn, kalrahr of the Tiger’s Claw, Lord Ralgha,” said the younger of the two. “I am Colonel Halcyon, leader of the squadron you surrendered to.” - Captain Thorn! Not Gerald or Tolwyn or… you see what I mean! The Tiger's Claw's captaincy has a complicated history so it's interesting that until SM2/FF nobody really cared about it at all. Captain Thorn is introduced in SM2 mentioned in passing and again seen here a few times. Before that, there was a single reference in Secret Missions 1 that implied Halcyon was commander of the ship. And of course now we have the movie and the movie novels and Academy…;

  • Kalrahr - this sounds very similar to Kalralahr, the Kilrathi equivalent of a Space Marshall… but it isn't that, and it isn't the formal rank for captain which would be Kal Shintahr. My guess is kalrahr is a word that means 'captain of a ship' or 'commander of a unit' or similar.

  • This is the first time that any of your people has exchanged anything with ours—except an exchange of fire. - a little too small universe here, the war has been going on for twenty years.

  • Carefully, slowly, with Halcyon and Thorn asking equally careful questions, he explained the situation on Ghorah Khar; the Emperor, seemingly so power-drunk that he no longer worried about the welfare of his people, and the advisors who continued to urge war upon him, when war gained them nothing, not even the goodwill of the war-god. How, after all, could Sivar approve of a war that held no true victories? How could the god approve of a war in which, increasingly, the highest number of deaths were among the women and children—and in accident, not in combat. Such deaths meant nothing to Sivar—and they impoverished the Kilrathi, destroyed the hope held in the blood of the young. - absolutely perfect explainer for how Kilrathi honor and their sense of war/religion works (and specifically how they aren't fuzzy Klingons).

  • Then, only when he was certain that the humans understood as much as they could, did he speak of the rebels—and made certain that they knew that there were no few of the priestesses of Sivar among them. - while we don't see this explanation or the interrogation itself in the game, we do have a mission briefing where Halcyon explains all that he learns here from Ralgha to the player in SM2.

  • the Captain and I would appreciate it if you would permit us to perform a chemical interrogation on you - consent! But also an interesting parallel to the very first chapter of the book where the Kilrathi interrogators couldn't perform such an interrogation. (In fact the whole interrogation scene is parallel to what he went through at the start.)

  • Ralgha’s ears curled back. “Since the death of my hrai, I do not care about the gods.” - existentialist Ralgha; should've been Camus instead of Hobbes. This is a good joke please appreciate it.

  • were few differences between a baseship of any species - feels like the slightest Battlestar Galactica nod, to the Cylon basestars.


  • “He just lost his family to the bas—to the attack on Goddard Colony,” he concluded. “He hasn’t been the same—” - MAYBE YOU SHOULD CHECK AND SEE IF LOSING FAMILY AT GODDARD DROVE ANY OTHER TIGER'S CLAW CREWMEN TO BECOME VIOLENT SOCIOPATHS (Also if you want your headcanon can be that the would-be assassin was Shotglass.)

  • The interrogation chemicals would without a doubt include some euphorics and painkillers. Right now, he would welcome both. - Ralgha nar Hhallas says 420 blaze it every day
 

EmuMusicFan

1st Lieutenant
their ears pierced with multiple gold rings - Ralgha still wears these in Wing Commander II.
Wear earrings symmetrically, a 2D pixel art friendly design. Melek nose rings are worn on the left side, causing me to have to maintain the portraits in both directions.

How Clan Ishta Got Its Stripes - someone should write and illustrate this
I have a general idea now.

A long, long time ago, Clan Ishta's people didn't have stripes on their fur, which made them look strange. Many people were mocking them, saying they didn't look imposing at all.

Unconvinced, Ishta people worked hard to refine their skills. Gradually, the prey they brought back from hunting were the most in the whole kingdom. Gradually, they became the most courageous in the battles to defend the lord and the inhabitants. Yet people were still saying from time to time that Clan Ishta had no stripes and were not imposing.

One day...

(To be continued...)
 
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Crimsonstar

Spaceman
Even though he looks nothing like him, I can't help but picture James Tolkan as Halcyon. Yes, another Back to the Future alumnus but moreso his character from Top Gun.

Taking the Academy cartoon into account with Tolwyn being the previous skipper of the Claw before Thorn, I would think the Vega Campaign would secure his promotion and Thorn assumed command before the Goddard disaster. Jazz had to have been a master hacker since the level of clearance needed to pull off the destruction of the Tiger's Claw and his other schemes was way beyond his pay grade. There is also the possibility of Mandarins in high level positions in Confed that could have reached out to Jazz and gave him the clearance. Given that Operation Crusade was very shortly after Thors Hammer.
 

Kelly_

Spaceman
I searched through the attic for my copy of Freedom Flight and have finally located it... in the first five pages one of my favorite story devices appears, divided loyalties, which ties into the discussion of the current chapter.

Ralgha's recitation of his oath to serve the glory of the emperor and the empire of kilrah automatically sets up a conflict between the emperor, and the empire, which is a loosely bound group of feudal families, becoming even looser as the war with the Confederation continues. The ordering of the oath itself matters, emperor before empire, and Ralgha presumably could have had other oaths of varying subordinate levels to the emperor's previously because a few pages later we see him verifying that the new pilot officer from Ghorah Khar had no conflicting oaths of a similar level to what he demands of that officer.

* Why did Ralgha give his retainer to Hunter?
First, to keep his options open. Without going into any reader knowledge that we have of Ralgha's future, in his inner monologue he states until Ralgha took back that oath, the boy would be his before he would be Hunter's and his clear understanding is that this is an addition to his loyalties not a replacement. This might make him look like more of a cold-blooded pragmatist than some would like to think, but in chapter four he was prepared to vent the majority of his crew, and the only person he trusted on the ship he literally raised as an orphan. Even then he had to consider whether to reveal his plan to Kirha. I don't think that allowing a subordinate to serve an enemy until revealing their true nature at an opportune moment is out of character for the Kilrathi in general, or unknown in the higher circles of imperial society.

Second, he did have some attachment to Kirha personally and expected that it would keep him safer than the rest of his crew. Whether as the last living link between his prior life, or as a possession or asset, I think that is debatable.

* It takes the inquisitors a long time to realize that the problem of honor codex. Was it caused by the limited understanding of Kilrathi culture that humans had?
I think that the Confederation in general had a much greater understanding of the Kilrathi than vice versa, and what is represented in this chapter is not that they do not understand the Kilrathi's concept of honor, or its expression in oaths, but rather its extent. If I am asked whether I like Wing Commander, I would of course say yes, like anyone else reading this... but the extent of my interest would not match anyone who has devoted years to the universe.

During the questioning, it is Kirha who says they had a great deal of difficulty understanding since this portion is from his point of view, but once he refuses to leave the interrogation room, they work out to what extent Kirha believes his oath extends to in the most literal sense, and the questioners synthesize out a working model of his oath with other references they must have had indirect observations of previously. The flexibility shown by the Confederation in this instance in developing and applying theories of alien cultures is demonstrably superior to the practice of capturing entire colonies for "research" as the empire had a history of, and then ignoring the lessons they could have learned.

Also, I stated that what extent Kirha believed his oath to extend to, because he says his loyalty was now bound completely to Hunter which is either not what Ralgha believed the oath to be, see above, or that Kirha believed a) his loyalty was now bound completely to Hunter, after and subordinate to b) I serve you now, as my offspring will serve as well from chapter one, and possibly c) other vassal oaths to the emperor or empire as referenced in Ralgha's speech in chapter four.

Overall, I think that in relatively short order the book establishes that honor is vitally important to Kilrathi, that questions of honor and oaths quickly become complex as they overlap, and that individuals look at their varying oaths in different levels of importance. Some of the motivations behind the decisions made by the Kilrathis so far seem alien, but they should.

* The third inquisitor used expletives when mentioning Hunter. Is it suitable?
I absolutely think so; the interrogation consisted of scripted portions, that Kirha recognized from Kilrathi questioning tactics, and "unscripted" portions that were meant to be overheard. They had just established that Kirha regarded Hunter as a liege lord, and by using that language in front of him they could have been trying to elicit a response, in the same way that the book opened.
 

EmuMusicFan

1st Lieutenant
Thanks so much for the long reply!

... the empire, which is a loosely bound group of feudal families, becoming even looser as the war with the Confederation continues.

I think it can be inferred that all previous interstellar expansions of Kilrathi were relatively smooth. The long war with the Conferderation was indeed slowly building up the resentment of the various clans against the Emperor's family. This is reflected in Ralgha's ideas.

This is even more obvious when combined with later novels by different authors with an obvious story line - the emperor was using the war to weaken other clans and strengthen his own power.

we see him verifying that the new pilot officer from Ghorah Khar had no conflicting oaths of a similar level to what he demands of that officer.

Sorry, not being a native speaker, I didn't fully understand this? The previous captian released the new pilot officer from his oath before the transfer.

... this is an addition to his loyalties not a replacement.

Then Ralgha would become Kirha's over lord, and Hunter would be Kirha's liege lord. Hunter's orders would have a higher priority, at least nominally. And... Ralgha would no longer consider Hunter an enemy since that time.

The flexibility shown by the Confederation in this instance in developing and applying theories of alien cultures is demonstrably superior to the practice of capturing entire colonies for "research" as the empire had a history of, and then ignoring the lessons they could have learned.

Judging from some of Ralgha and Kirha's performance, Kilrathi generally did not know enough about human culture and society before this, or many of them were not interested in getting to know it.

On the other hand, later novels told us that there were exceptions.

Overall, I think that in relatively short order the book establishes that honor is vitally important to Kilrathi, that questions of honor and oaths quickly become complex as they overlap...

Agreed. From here we know that trust and benefit sharing make up a much larger part of the loyalty of the top nobility, while the loyalty of the lower officers to the nobility is more bound by morality and tradition, even formalities.
 
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Pedro

Admiral
I've made it through Pilgrim Truth and caught up through the first 5 chapters of FF. Not much to add. Obviously the paragraph:

"How, after all, could Sivar approve of a war that held no true victories? How could the god approve of a war in which, increasingly, the highest number of deaths were among the women and children—and in accident, not in combat. Such deaths meant nothing to Sivar—and they impoverished the Kilrathi, destroyed the hope held in the blood of the young."

jumped out at me.


The discussion of Kilrathi oaths has been an interesting one coming from the Pilgrim books, my fuzzy recollections made me expect it would be difficult to reconcile the behaviour of the cats there with that of Kir'ha, but if anything they reinforce eachother (sadly I'm not as keen as what happens on the Terran side in those books).

I'm also playing SM2 as I go in tandem with the book, this is a great way to experience it. I find the novelizations of WC3 and 4 tough reading, this is an excellent balance of overlapping enough to excite my nerd genes. It also holds true enough to the games that it doesn't create a bunch of canon issues. It perfectly compliments the game and I wish we had more novels in this format for the WC1-2 era.

It's interesting that the franchise steered away from this path so fiercely, going so far as to try and write the Firekkans out for SWC and taking a very different course on future novels. I'd love to know what happened internally.

I don't remember being overly fond of FF, but I'm enjoying it more than the other books I've gone back to recently (I'm going through chronologically, so before this read Actions Stations, followed by the 3 movie novels). The difference in tone is notable, but I do think a lot of that is the focus on Hunter who doesn't take anything too seriously. The attack on Ralgha isn't something you'd expect to see from a starfleet ship, so it isn't quite Star Trek level, but the more positive view on the confederation than we get elsewhere (particularly coming straight from Pilgrim Truth) does really stand out.
 
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